A friend who does research on peak oil views advertising as the irresponsible exploitation of consumers and as a means of creating false demand, thus draining the world of its resources. Am I contributing to global warming by helping my clients succeed?? God, I hope not.
Maybe I lack discriminatory powers, but I believe in most of the products I work on. I believe what I do is a good thing, even a noble thing. I help small to mid-size businesses compete. I believe entrepreneurialism is the key to the future of our economy and our democracy.
As a freelancer, I can choose whom to work with. It is up to my own moral scruples whether I turn down a job. Personal economics always plays a part in this, but by being fair with people I hope to hum along and make a decent living, yet work ethically.
This week I went against my better judgment and wrote a sales letter for a product I don’t believe in. I could believe in the product as a simple novelty item. But not as a classy gift, which is how the client wanted to position it. So, I wrote a short sales letter and gave some good advice, without charging him. I just did not feel good about it. And predictably, the letter lacked the kind of fire he was looking for.
Sometime clients believe that writers are like Captain Picard. The think we can ignore reality, wave our magic word wands, and “Make it so.” Yes, we can use words to spin the truth. But there has to be a starting point. Sometimes that starting point is very tiny. A writer’s belief in you or your product can fuel his enthusiasm and make his lies believable.
I did not like this particular client and I did not like his product. He has been involved in all kinds of sketchy (to my mind) things, with overblown press releases that go out to investors followed by a notable lack of presence on the Internet a few years later. It smacked of smoke and mirrors.
The people I love to work for are invested in their businesses. They, dare I say it, have a sincerity about what they do that makes me their ally. They can have flawed products and I will do my best. But I do not think they can have a flawed sense of purpose and connect to the thing in me that writes believably. So I dropped the project, because although writers don’t need to tell the truth, they need to believe in what they write.